because it had been foretold that Jesus should be a victim. He had the same opportunities as the rest, but while their names are had in honour for evermore, his conduct justifies the solemn proverb. Born he had been for the highest opportunity, but so had he abused it that he might well wish that he had been never born; never been known than known only for this.



St. John xiii. 23-26.

Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it.

This incident can only be understood by a reference to the manners and customs of the East, where at their feasts the guests reclined on couches placed round the table, so that the head of one would naturally be towards the breast of another. Thus placed, nearest to his Lord, and at His right hand,' was our Evangelist himself; who, it must be observed, never mentions himself by name, but prefers to use this distinguishing phrase. And indeed, though the Lord loved them all, there seems to have been some especial tenderness in His regard for this particular Disciple; so much so as, without envy, to have obtained for him this

For the manner at table was to lean on the left elbow, and as our Evangelist's head reclined on his Master's breast, it is plain that he must have been also at His right hand. In the famous picture by Leonardo da Vinci, in the Convent of Le Grazie at Milan, our Evangelist is thus on our Lord's right; next to him is Judas Iscariot;

behind whom Peter leans forward to communicate with John; James, the brother of John, is on our Lord's left. Lampe says, "Let the Papacy look to it how it claims primacy for Peter, when John obtains the first place at the table and in the heart of Christ, and Peter himself needs his patronage."

[ocr errors]

title.' Nor until towards the Saviour's Passion did he come to know how much he was beloved. Now first, when death is drawing nigh, we hear this term.2 Between this Disciple also and St. Peter there seems to have existed a strong friendship. We find them continually, as here, associated together. So, as in any doubtful matter, friend generally has recourse to friend, Peter's natural impulse here is to apply first to John. Their eyes met. They exchanged glances of mutual surprise. And as the latter was nearest to their Lord, and known to be especially dear to Him, there would be special reason, as there was special facility, for him to become the mouthpiece of his brethren, and to propose the question which all longed to ask. So Peter makes a sign3 to John, which he readily understood; and availing himself of his position in the affections, and nigh unto the person, of his Lord,-a thrice recorded fact,- he leans back, and lays his head upon that gentle breast,5 and whispers, probably, "Lord, who is it?" And the Lord answers, not aloud probably, but to the ear of the questioner, in the same manner as the question was proposed; answers, not by giving the dishonoured name, but by giving a sign which would sufficiently indicate who it was that was about to do this deed. For to call by name was a mark of friendship and of favour, or it was the manner of calling to account and of rebuke. But the former, this treacherous one had already forfeited; and the time for the latter was not yet come. Not yet therefore will the Lord name him by his name, though afterwards we find Him in the garden using in sternness and just reproach this very compellation. But our Evan

St. John xix. 26, 27; xxi. 20-24. Bengel characteristically remarks, "It is better to be loved by Jesus than to be celebrated by name."

2 Bengel.

3 Chrysostom notes that if, after telling us that Peter had nodded to John to ask, our Evangelist had added nothing more, we should have been casting about for reasons why he should thus apply in particular to him; but by mentioning these circum


[blocks in formation]

gelist here notes it, taking care again' to distinguish the false disciple from the true.



St. John xiii. 26, 27.

And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.


The custom in the East at these meals seems to have been for the host to dip a morsel of bread in something which might impart to it a relish or flavour,-in this case, probably," a piece of the unleavened bread, dipped in the broth made of bitter herbs," 2-and to offer it to one and another of the guests; a relic doubtless of those primitive times and manners in which hospitality was shown by the host waiting personally upon his guests, as did Abraham; or by sending portions to them from his own table, as did Joseph; 5 or by reaching forth to them of what was before him, as did Boaz; not leaving them to shift for themselves, as our Lord seems to have reproved one of the Pharisees for doing." Then Satan entered into Judas; not for the first time, but for the last time; not now by way of earliest suggestion, but to the consummation of his crime. Already had he meditated it; already had he covenanted with the Chief Priests and Captains; now, like the wild beast in his lair, he is but watching his opportunity. Then it is, but not till then, that the Lord addresses to him that word which to the rest of the Disciples is dark enough. This is no direction to his deed of darkness. It is no permission to sin. It is but as when the martyr has been delivered to his tormentors, an



1 V. 2 above; ch. vi. 71.

2 Alford. Ex. xii. 8.

3 St. Luke ix. 16; x. 8.

4 Gen. xviii. 8.

Gen. xliii. 31-34.

Ruth ii. 14.

7 St. Luke vii. 44-46.

So in the original. See I. Williams On the Gospels, Part v. sec. 5.

9 V. 2 above.

innocent to the executioner. All hope of escape cut off, all expectation of life abandoned, he requests the small favour of a speedy despatch. And indeed whatever deeper or hidden meaning, whatever of mystery the words contained, Judas might have been checked and instructed by them. He might have interpreted this proverbial saying (for such it seems) as a call to him, if he had any business taking him away for a time from that society he should have so dearly prized, to make haste to discharge it, and return with speed; as indeed the rest, the honest and innocent ones, interpreted the words. As regards our Saviour Himself, this promptness for His Passion may be read side by side with that other saying some time before, when He foresaw all the dreary way before Him, and the Cross at the end of the journey. "I have a Baptism," He says, "to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" 3 We may see in it that spirit which finds its echo and imitation afterwards in the profession of His faithful follower, "I am now ready to be offered." It marks the voluntariness of the offering. The true Isaac resigns Himself to be laid on the altar, upon the wood.



St. John xiii. 28-30.

Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. For some of them thought, because Judas had the he was commanded to do."-Mozley, Ruling Ideas, p. 109. 2 V. 29.

"He was commanded now to do the act, but it was his own act which

3 See Cowper's fine hymn (Olney Hymns, Bk. ii. LV.):

"With all His sufferings full in view,

And woes to us unknown,

Forth to the work His spirit flew,

'Twas love that urged Him on."

It may recall (to apply reverently such an illustration) the famous soliloquy : "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well

It were done quickly.”—Macbeth, 1. vii.

St. John x. 17, 18.

bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.



What a glimpse this incidental statement gives us of the social and domestic life of our Lord and His Apostles! From it we learn that they had a common fund; that they were careful punctually to attend the religious Festivals, and to provide for their due observance, and to provide things honest in the sight of all men, and that they were forward to remember the poor; judging, seemingly, festival time a fit time for alms, and though poor themselves, yet acting upon that counsel," If thou hast little, do thy diligence gladly to give of that little." And now Judas is impatient to be gone. His palm itches, with Balaam, for the wages of unrighteousness. With Cain, he goes out from the presence of the Lord. Now he rises from that Table where he had been washed, and instructed, and fed, and hastens to betray his benefactor. Again the Evangelist notes that he does this after partaking of his Lord's bounty; after that sign of a covenant of peace which pagans even would not break. And as he passed, he seems to have asked low that question, "Master, is it I?" and to have received the answer which should even then have arrested him on the verge of the abyss, "Thou hast said." Thou hast named the author of the deed. Thou art the man.


"Judas was therefore the almoner of Christ; and surely if his office of treasurer exposed him to fiery temptation, the insight which he must have obtained, in his other capacity, into the depth of human misery, and the height of Divine love, should have sufficed to quench the flame. Here was the antidote side by side with the poison."-A Plain Commentary.

2 "Against the Feast," i.e., for the offerings during the Feast. The Commentators note this primitive pattern of a Church Fund, and that by the Lord's example here we are to interpret the injunctions of St. Matt. vi.

He calls Him Master from

19, 20; St. Luke xii. 33. Alford surmises that "the gift to the poor might be, to help them to procure the Paschal Lamb."

3 Tobit iv. 8. The verse, from the old version, is included among the sentences at the Offertory.

The dreadful parallel between Judas and Ahitophel has been already noticed; that between him and Cain and Balaam is hardly less striking. St. Jude 11-13; 2 St. Pet. ii. 12-22; Gen. iv. 16.

5 St. Matt. xxvi. 25. He uses the word Rabbi. The rest (v. 22 above) had addressed Him as Lord.

« ElőzőTovább »